Photograph of Les Bourgeois de Calais (The Burghers of Calais) taken by Pierre Choumoff Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This photograph of Les Bourgeois de Calais (The Burghers of Calais) was taken by Pierre Choumoff, one of many photographers employed by Auguste Rodin to create a visual documentation of his work. The photograph was recently up for sale at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery in London, as part of a larger exhibition and auction.

Here we discover a display of the figures together, out on display within a exhibition room. Several other related artworks can be seen in the background, as well as some architectural flourishes which give clues as to where this collection was displayed. Rodin liked to have photographs of his pieces in development and then later when first exhibited. It gave him a record of their lives, as he saw it, and he often felt as if these were living creatures, having worked for so long in order to create each and every one. He is known to have become romantically connected to some of the female sculptures, such was the realistic way in which he captured these different figures. He also regularly used live models which perhaps helped to blur the living body with his sculptures in his own mind. He is known to have directed the photographers so that everything would look just as he wanted and as Rodin grew older, so his demands became stronger and clearer.

Pierre Choumoff was a Belarusian photographer who later gained French citizenship after working in the country for a number of years. He captured some memorable photos of some of Rodin's best sculptures and is believed to have worked for the sculptor most notably in 1915. An ink stamp was used by Choumoff in order to verify the authenticity of these photographs and some of them would actually be sold at the time for around six francs each. Although a talented and respected photographer, he may not have become quite as famous were it not for this collaboration with Rodin, who was someone who made use of many of his colleagues too across his career.

Les Bourgeois de Calais (The Burghers of Calais) is seen as one of the highlights of Rodin's career and is frequently mentioned when discussing his achievements as an artist. He helped to take this medium onwards from the traditional artists of the Renaissance towards something more modern and dynamic. He therefore took what had been contributed by the likes of Michelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Donatello and introduced new ideas and styles which would breathe new life into this artistic discipline. Another notable modern sculptor who also helped to develop things onwards was Constantin Brâncuși, whose career is also still held in very high regard. In the present day we now have many producing huge installations that have added a further dimension to this art form and there is also more of an international feel to the movement, helping to broaden influences even further.